United go up another gear to edge towards play off zone

Torbay Weekly

CAPTAIN ASA Hall and centre-back Joe Lewis both scored their fifth goals of the season and on-loan midfielder Stephen Duke-McKenna weighed in with his first senior goal in stoppage-time as Torquay United moved to within six points of the National League Play-Offs with a deserved win at bottom-of-the-table Dover Athletic.

Hall opened the scoring with a spectacular shot from just outside the area after less than two minutes, before Dover - they had been completely outplayed early on - snatched an equaliser through Jake Goodman in the 26th minute.

But Gary Johnson's Gulls were intent on not letting their struggling opponents off the hook in the second half and, although they had to wait until the 78th minute for Lewis' set-piece header, Duke-McKenna's high-class finish confirmed United's superiority.

It completed a second 'double' of the season for Torquay - they have now won seven of their last ten games, taking 22 points out of 30 in the process - and they were even able to welcome back centre-forward Danny Wright for a 20-minute return off the bench.

Johnson had Wright fit again, but he held him back as a substitute, making one change to the starting line-up.

The recall of Dan Holman in attack, with Duke-McKenna dropping to the bench, signalled a change in formation - Hall was switched from central defence, which went to a back-four, back into midfield.

Hall, who had scored in the eighth minute against Wrexham (1-0) seven days before, didn't hang around that long this time.

The clock had been running for only 81 seconds when the Gulls' skipper hit a half-volley from just outside the penalty area and the ball flew into the net, giving Adam Parkes no chance in the Dover goal…1-0.

For the next 25 minutes it was almost too easy for United.

They passed the ball around at pace and with ease, and it was 18 minutes before Gulls goalie Shaun MacDonald even touched the ball.

Holman fired over in the tenth minute, before a slick move between Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Stephen Wearne set up Armani Little to shoot over the bar.

Dover had not been in the game, and it seemed only a matter of when, not if, Torquay would score again…until the 26th minute.

Then, the hosts forced a corner, Koby Arthur's flag-kick was headed back at the far post by Harry Ransom and Goodman forced the ball in from point-blank range…1-1.

It was a goal completely against the run of play, but it had a predictable effect on both sides.

Dover were galvanised, United stunned for a while.

Michael Gyasi shot just wide, from a move Dover hadn't even hinted at moments before, as the Whites suddenly believed they might earn only a second win of the season.

But at least Torquay did not concede again before half-time, with midfielder Tom Lapslie putting in some typically determined defensive work.

Hall should have regained the lead in the 40th minute - Wearne had a shot well saved by Parkes, but Hall blazed over when he should have hit the target.

Johnson doubtless let his players know how frustrated he was that they weren't winning the game, and they came out for the second half with obvious intent.

Referee Rob Whitton turned down a big penalty shout when Holman worked room for a shot just after the restart and appeared to be brought down as he was about to shoot.

Holman, putting in a hard-working display, then crossed from the left and Ben Wynter fired wide from just inside the area - again he should at least have tested Parkes.

United were clearly on top again, Dover doing their best to stay in the game, and Johnson made two changes in quick succession.

On went Duke-McKenna for Wearne and then Wright for Holman.

There was one scare when the pacy Gyasi latched onto a long ball over the top of the Gulls' defence, but he shot wide.

But United were playing in a higher gear than their opponents and, when Little crossed, Wright was there to head just wide.

Parkes also did well to save a Little free-kick before Lewis struck in the 78th minute.

Little, whose set-pieces had been good all afternoon, delivered his latest corner and Lewis' header was just too powerful for the diving Parkes to stop…1-2.

It may not have been a decisive scoreline, but United had deserved it and they were in no mood to let it slip as they had done in the first half.

Indeed, they looked dangerous every time they counter-attacked Dover's despairing efforts to equalise a second time, and a third goal always looked on the cards.

Sure enough, it came deep into stoppage-time - Wright and Little were both involved before Duke-McKenna made it a day to remember for him with a quality finish from the edge of the box - right in front of the travelling Gulls fans…3-1, game over.

Dover Athletic (4-4-2): Parkes; Woods, Ransom, Goodman, Krasniqi; Arthur, Collinge, Hanson, Wilkinson (Bramble 61); Pavey, Gyasi; subs not used - Andre (gk), Moses,Twumasi, Byford.


Torquay United (4-4-2): MacDonald; Wynter, Lewis, Moxey, Martin; Wearne (Duke-McKenna 68), Lapslie, Hall, Little; Lemonheigh-Evans, Holman (Wright 70); subs not used - Halstead (gk), Omar,Lolos.

Booked: Lewis 41.

Referee: Rob Whitton (Essex).